National Press Club

National Press Club lauds Senate panel approval of media shield bill

September 12, 2013 | By John M. Donnelly |

The National Press Club Sept. 12 praised the Senate Judiciary Committee for advancing legislation that would institute a federal shield to protect reporters from having to disclose confidential sources in many instances.

The Press Club views the legislation as better than other recent attempts to establish a shield and an improvement on the current situation, where reporters cannot guarantee anonymous sources confidentiality as long as courts can seek to compel journalists to disclose the sources’ names.

The Club has expressed concern about the increasing number of prosecutions of government employees who have shared information with the press and the risks this poses to anonymous sources on whom the press — and public — must rely to provide critical information. A national shield law might help shift the balance in favor of protecting this vital flow of information.

The Senate Judiciary-passed measure would allow covered journalists, as defined in the bill, to go before a federal judge and challenge court orders that they or their service providers turn over information, if disclosure of that data could compromise confidential sources and thus the news-gathering process and the public's right to know.

To date, 48 states and the District of Columbia have some sort of shield in place for reporters, but there is no federal statute.

It is not clear yet what the chances are in the House for a companion bill.

The Club has joined with a coalition of other media organizations in an effort to support the enactment of a national shield law.